I don’t know what to say to you. I just know I need to say something, so let’s just start there.
It’s been a little over two months now since the car incident. I can’t really call it an accident, since an accident is considered an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally. You see as far as I can tell and from the police report itself, you ran that red light on purpose, intentionally, making a decision to change lanes to do so (avoiding the car that was sitting there). And since you have not taken the time to reach out to us to express your sympathy, I thought I would write.
This is not easy you know. We’ve had your name and address almost from the very beginning, but I have not been in the place to want to say anything to you,… kind. So I chose to instead to endure the silence, for a time.
Let me tell you a little about the person that you hit when you made the decision to speed through that red light. His name was Joseph. He was a real human being. He was the youngest of our three children, our only son and was 22. And you killed him.
Joseph was working. He was on his way to the office that morning, where he had been working with his dad for the last year. He was filled with so much promise as he began to learn the tools of the trade, and was excited at the prospect of “working among lawyers” he said.
He believed in God and went to church, where he was developing his ability as a spoken word artist. He also liked to sing, draw, play video games and shoot basketball. Besides leaving me, his dad and his sisters to mourn him, Joseph also left behind an 11-year-old nephew, who he was teaching to play basketball, every chance he had. And one day, Joseph said, he wanted to go back to the high school he graduated from, not only to perform his spoken word, but to talk to students about bullying, because he himself was. But now he can’t because you not only killed him, you snatched his dream away.
Joseph took a different route that morning than the one that I knew he usually took. But he decided to take the one that I told him was much easier and that his dad always took, Route 206. How I wish he did not listen to me that day! Somehow I believe taking that route, was just another way to pay tribute to his dad. He wanted to be like him more than I knew and was beginning to show that in little ways. But you also took that away from us, when you ran that red light.
Joe always drove safely too. He always had on his seat belt, and surprisingly as a young man, he maintained the speed limit. He liked cars, too. Muscle cars he called them. But yet in spite of the stereotype of young males who drive, Joseph drove with caution and control. But he didn’t see you coming that day. Oh, how I wish he did! You killed him when you made that decision to run that red light.
You see I have a picture that plays over and over in my mind. I see Joseph as he turned that roundabout to go across Amboy Road, on his way to work, thinking about what he would do once he got there, clueless as to what would happen… and then I see you, (somehow wishing I could go back in time to tell him), speeding through that red light--- and slam!
That is the running picture that keeps going through my mind almost every time I close my eyes and I remember Joseph. And sometimes it plays even when my eyes are open.
Joseph was on his way to work. He was on his way to work. It was not even 10:00 in the morning. He was three short minutes away--- and slam!
Cut off--- from life--- from me, from his family. You did that.
What were you thinking? What was going on in your mind? Were you distracted? Were you on medication? Were you supposed to wear glasses? Were you on your cell phone… oh no, were you texting!?
The red light was as clear as day. There are four them going across that bridge, sitting just above the road so that they can clearly be seen… How could you have missed them? All four… really? Oh how I wish there was a camera there! Reasoning tells me you had to see them. And when you did you made a conscious decision to go through them… anyway.
Are you not aware of what you did? You hit someone. You killed someone. It wasn’t an animal. It wasn’t a squirrel. It was my son. His name was Joseph.
Joseph was 22. You are 74. You lived your life. His, was only beginning. And yet you walk away with “minor” injuries, the newspaper reported, not even enough to warrant attention. You actually made the decision to decline medical treatment. My son was not given that choice. He died.
And yet YOU stay quiet. YOU don’t feel a need to reach out. YOU don’t express YOUR thoughts, YOUR sympathy.
Every time, every single time, that I need to go to the supermarket, I have to pass through that intersection. Just to get a few groceries, I have to live through the longest nightmare of my life. That running picture of what happened in the middle of that intersection. Just to pick up simple things, like ice cream, I have to live through the reality of knowing my son will never tell me “don’t forget the chocolate syrup, Mom” again.
Every time that my husband goes to his office he goes through that same intersection. It takes him less than 15 minutes to get there. And that same picture plays again for him… slam! And not only does he have to deal with the harsh reality of Joseph not being at home, he has to deal with it at work. Joseph lived with him and Joseph worked with him. And you took that away when you ran through that red light.
One morning as I prayed and asked the Lord to cover my children… I actually included Joseph. Now every time, every day as I pray, I pause when I call out their names, reminded that one is missing. I can no longer ask the Lord to cover Joseph, because Joseph is not here. And then the scene plays again and I have to suffer through the pain all over again, and the thought of the pain he must have felt when you ran that red light.
And you go on. Free. Able to walk the streets, able to go to the supermarket, able to cross that intersection, able to enjoy your life, the holidays, your family, go on vacation and live out the rest of your days. While my son can’t and neither can we… at least not without the reminder. Slam!
That’s where it ends every time I remember Joseph. Good times, fun times… slam! You killed him.
It came to an end and we are forced to deal with a reality we did not sign up for and certainly did not see coming.
I don’t know why I’m writing to you. What I want most of all are answers. Not that they really would make a difference, nor make any sense… But did you consider at least for one moment, what it might mean if you ran through a red light? Did you hesitate… for a second?
Traffic laws are made for a reason…. To protect…. lives. To protect someone’s son. You broke the law and you took away Joseph’s protection. You stole his life when you made the decision to run the red light.
I really don’t know what else to say to you. I tell myself I want to hate you, but the love of God won’t let me. I want so much to see you locked up, to make you pay, to make you suffer, to make your family suffer, as we do… but even that doesn’t quite feel right. I can’t say I want revenge, because it’s not mine to get. And it won’t bring my Joseph back. I know it won’t.
But I do want justice. I want Joseph to be vindicated. I want your license taken away, if it needs to be. I want every person who reaches the age of 65 (myself when I get there, included) to be tested every year, in order to renew their license. I want you to be punished for the wrongful act you committed… the reckless decision you made as you sped through that red light. You chose to do that… you chose to break the law and for that you need to be punished.
And I want to hear you say I’m sorry. You don’t have a right to remain silent in this case. And you owe us at least that much. You owe at least that much, to Joseph.
But you know what, even if you don’t, I forgive you. Not because I want to, but because I have to, realizing that not forgiving you will allow you to steal another part of my life, and remain silent in doing so, as the man who not only killed my son, but continues to kill me in the process.
Can’t say that I expect to hear from you. Don’t even know if you’ll ever see this letter, but I yet had to write it. For Joseph.
For more about Joe, visit www.ripjoe.org
9/5 Here is an update on Joseph's case: http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2015/09/father_of_fatal_crash_victim_wants_action_on_sons.html#incart_river